For decades now, scientists have tried to find ways for us to eat meat without having to take our future dinner to a metal shed and pump 20,000 volts into its skull. While many have gone the way of playing God by growing slabs of muscle in a lab, a startup called Impossible Foods has gone the other direction, transforming plant life to taste and cook like bona fide meat. And in a big victory for the company, their tentpole Impossible Burgers have now been deemed to be (maybe probably totally kinda) fine for human consumption
Impossible Foods shocked the food industry in 2011 by claiming it could replicate meat without ever getting near a delicious pig or its delicious pig cells. They proved to be pretty close to the mark with their Impossible Burger, a plant-based patty that somehow mimicked the texture and browning of an actual hamburger. They attributed their success to a "secret sauce that makes the burgers "bleed" via the injection of leghemoglobin extracted from soy, which is similar to the hemeproteins in animal blood and muscle that gives meat its meaty texture. (And here's a marketing tip for free: If you're going to inject something into food that relates to a bodily function, don't call it your "secret sauce" unless you want people to think someone went to third base with their lunch.)
However, the Impossible Burger's "essential ingredient" raised some food safety issues, and Impossible Foods suffered its first setback when the news leaked that the Food and Drug Administration had turned down Impossible Food's request to get into its GRAS ("generally recognized as safe") food category. Though even in health code limbo, the Impossible Burger remained available to eat at places like White Castle, because just by walking into a White Castle you legally waive all rights to your body's well-being.
Fortunately, after offering the FDA more research into leghemoglobin's safety, the agency said they no longer "have questions" regarding the safety of the ingredient, which is about the most tepid of "meh, whatever" responses out there. Not that it matters, of course. As we've talked about before, the FDA is a joke of an institution, notable for lax standards and easily exploitable loopholes. So why is the company shouting this basically meaningless news from the rooftops? Because making Impossible Burgers requires a lot of food engineering -- a combination of words regular folks don't like to hear unless it's referring to someone building a replica of The Louvre out of mashed potatoes. (The biggest hurdle of GM foods is never the Frankensteinian science, it's the Frankensteinian mobs.)
And with its ass now being GRAS, Impossible Foods has a real shot at convincing humanity take another step toward bypassing our psychotic monkey brains' yearning to charge a chicken with a fork. Vegetarians will love it because they can enjoy their food without having to tangle with the ethics of a lab-grown meat future, and meat eaters will love it because they can now remind vegetarians they clearly got on the no-meat train seven stops too early.
For more weird tangents and his personal recipes for toilet wine, do follow Cedric on Twitter.
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